GIVEN her lifelong interest in space travel, it seems only fitting that sales of Catherine Ryan Howards’ latest book are tipped to rocket.

Describing herself as an “armchair astronaut”, she took every opportunity to visit Orlando’s Kennedy Space Centre when she worked in nearby Disney. Her timing couldn’t have been better. “In 2007 I got to achieve a dream I’ve had since I was eight years old — to see a space shuttle launch.”

But the Cork woman has no intention of changing career midstream. “I never had the aptitude for maths. And the type of people who become astronauts are the opposite to me.”

Fizzing with energy, the 34-year-old is juggling a college degree — she’s studying English at TCD — and a burgeoning writing career. Her latest book, Distress Signals, was shortlisted in this year’s Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards and is due to be published in America next February.

“It helps to be in college, because if I was at home all day with nothing to do but write I’d never get anything done. It’s very hectic, but I can’t complain.”

What shape are you in?

Not the kind I’d like. Writer’s arse is a well-known side effect of my profession and I seem to suffer from it more than most. My professional success seems to have a direct correlation to my physical expansion. It’s really hard to maintain an active lifestyle when exercise of any kind means time away from your desk, and there’s always a deadline looming.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

When I do eat, I cook from scratch. I like a lot of colour on my plate and simple wholesome ingredients that are easily found in your local supermarket. Right now my favourite dish is Derval O’Rourke’s ‘Runner’s Stew’ with chicken and chorizo. The problem is that up until it’s ready, I’ve probably had no breakfast and a calorific Starbucks pastry for lunch.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I’m partial to a good cheesecake, but I don’t feel guilty about that at all.

What would keep you awake at night?

The only times I don’t really sleep is whenever I have an alarm set for crazy o’clock to catch a dawn flight, because I’m convinced it won’t go off and I’ll miss it. Missing a flight is one of my worst nightmares.

How do you relax?

I only really relax when I go away. One of my favourite spots is Nice. But I recently discovered Villefranche, a village about a 10 minute-drive from Nice. Down by the harbour you can sit by the water’s edge, sip a delicious café crème and listen to the gentle rocking of the sailboats tied up nearby, while admiring the view of the bay. It’s pure bliss.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

All the surviving moon walkers. I would love to talk to them about their experiences. And, because I’ve worked abroad, my best friends are flung all over the place, from Newcastle to New Zealand.

What’s your favourite smell?

Bliss Spa’s Lemon and Sage range. There’s a shampoo, conditioner, body butter, soap and shower gel. I might start a petition for them to create a scented candle. The smell is just incredible.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

Whenever I go clothes shopping I wish I could take up a bit less space but, honestly, I don’t waste too much time dwelling on it and there’s certainly nothing I’d change beyond that. I like being me.

When is the last time you cried?

In the early hours of November 9 when they called Florida for Trump. I knew it was over then.

What traits do you least like in others?

I can’t stand selfishness. No good ever comes of it. I’m also not a fan of what I call The Drive-By Shooters: people who deal with their own insecurities by dropping little digs and insults into their conversations with you. Half the time it’s so subtle, you’re not even sure you’ve been hit until you walk away.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

My pathological procrastination, which is just a fancy label for my inherent laziness. Never do today what can feasibly be put off until tomorrow, is my motto.

Do you pray?

I’ve been an atheist all my adult life, so no. I am a fan of positive thoughts, though. I really think your thoughts can and do effect your mood so I try to stay in control of mine as much as possible. You can’t control where life takes you but you can control your reaction to it — and that will make all the difference.

What would cheer up your day?

Today? It’s freezing and grey here in Dublin so a bit of blue sky and crisp sunshine would be nice.


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